Copic markers are the best art markers you can find.
But it takes some skill and the right techniques to get the most out of them.
When I first started using Copic markers my drawings looked terrible.
Don’t try to learn everything through trial and error like me…
This article consists out of several tutorial that will help you understand how to use Copic markers effectively!
What Copic markers should I start with
It’s important that you buy the right Copic colors to start with.
There are currently 358 colors to choose from.
Of course, you don’t need all 358 colors.
That would be overkill.
But for a well-balanced set of markers you want at least 3 colors from each color family.
This will guarantee that you have at least one blending family for each color.
Moreover, you also want to take into account what you will be coloring.
For example, for manga or portraits you will have to get a set with lots of skin tones.
If you want to know exactly which colors I recommend, you can read my article on the best Copic markers.
What kind of paper to use with Copic markers
Many beginners underestimate the importance of using the right paper for markers.
If you are having problems with your Copic markers bleeding through the page or feathering, you are probably using the wrong paper.
At the same time, it’s difficult to give Copic marker paper recommendations since every artist has different preferences.
In general, the thicker the paper, the more ink it can handle before it bleeds through the page.
But at the same time, thick paper also absorbs more ink so your markers might run dry a little faster.
If you want to know which paper I use, you can read my article on the best paper for Copic markers.
Understanding the Copic Color labeling system
With all the different colors, it can be difficult to find the exact marker you want.
That’s why Copic came up with a simple labelling system.
Knowing the label of each marker is important, because it is a good indicator of the likelihood that you can blend two colors smoothly.
Every Copic marker has a special code on it such as R24 or B99. This numbering system consists of three parts and gives essential information about the marker.
- The letter tells you which color family the marker below to: For example, “B” means blue and “R” means red. Sometimes you have two letters like “YR” which stands for yellow-red.
- The first number ranges from 0 to 9 and indicates the saturation: A lower number indicates high saturation and will give very bright and vibrant colors.
- The second number indicates the shade: It ranges from 0 to 9, with 0 meaning lighter shade and 9 being the darkest shade.
When deciding which Copic markers to choose to blend together, try to look for 2 or 3 markers that are from the same blending group and have identical saturation but are different in their last digit.
For example, markers B22 and B26 will blend together well, while blending B22 with either B12 or Y22 will be difficult.
How to blend Copic markers
Let’s take a look at the two most important Copic blending techniques that you will use most of the time when blending with Copic markers.
Copic blending techniques for similar colors
Blending colors from the same color family is pretty simple, as can be seen in the video below.
Here is how to do it:
- Start with the lightest color
- Use circular motions
- Work in a second color
- Switch back and forth both colors till the gradient is smooth
- Repeat to add extra colors
It is easier to blend smoothly if both colors are very similar.
If you want to blend two colors that are from the same color family but not very similar, you can use a third marker that’s somewhere in the middle.
Copic blending techniques for different colors
Blending colors from different families is more tricky, but thankfully not impossible.
The easiest way to do so is by using the flicking methods.
Here is how to do it:
- Pick your lightest color
- Place it on the paper
- Flick it in one direction such that the color fades out
- Pick your second color
- Place it on the paper
- Flick it in the opposite direction
- Repeat with both colors until you get the right result.
It doesn’t take a lot of practice to master this technique.
But it’s super useful.
Keep in mind though that in most cases you won’t be able to achieve the same smooth gradients as with the first blending technique.
Shading with Copic markers
For shading with Copic markers I suggest using one of the blending methods mentioned above.
Using a slightly darker shade and blending them in at the right places is the easiest way to shade.
Note that you don’t want to use one of the gray Copic markers for shading.
These markers normally don’t blend well with other colors, so it’s difficult to make a nice smooth result.
On some types of paper, you can also shade an area simply by adding a second layer of the same color, as shown in the video below.
But you can’t pull this off with every type of paper.
On some paper the second layer will dry up to be the same color as the first layer.
So before using this method, take out a sheet of scrap paper and see if layering results in darkening of your colors.
How to use the Copic colorless blender
The Copic colorless blender is like any other marker, except that it has no pigment.
Yet the colorless blender is one of the most used Copic markers out there.
Because even though it doesn’t have any color, it is super useful to have.
Normally, I use my colorless blender for one of the following reasons:
- Blending: If the ink on the page has completely dried it can be difficult to blend in a new color. Using the colorless marker you can wet the old ink before blending.
- Fading Out Colors: You can fade out colors by using the flicking method. But it’s not very reliable or precise. With the colorless blender you can fade out colors much easier.
- Correcting Mistakes: You can use the colorless blender to push around the ink and correct mistakes. This is great if you accidentally colored outside the lines. But keep in mind that you can only push the ink around and completely remove it.
- Adding Texture: The colorless blender can be used to add textures to your illustrations.
How to refill Copic markers
If you use your Copics a lot, you will eventually run out of ink.
Fortunately, all Copic markers can be refilled, which is much cheaper than buying new markers.
You want to make sure you refill your markers before they run completely dry, because if there is little ink left it becomes so much more difficult to blend.
There are 3 different ways to refill your Copic markers: the drip method, removing the nib, and the booster method.
But really, you only need to know the first method since it’s the easiest and fastest.
Here is how to do it:
- Uncap the marker on both ends
- Prepare a piece of scrap paper in case of splashing
- Slowly drip ink onto the broad nib while holding the marker at an angle
- You will need roughly 20 to 30 drops to fill your marker depending on the type
- Stop adding ink if the marker starts to leak from the bottom
- Dab any excess ink with a tissue
Pretty easy right?
In my opinion this is by far the best method to refill your Copic markers.
If you remove the nib, you can refill your marker a little bit faster.
But the Copic nibs are quite delicate and you can easily damage them if you remove them the wrong way.
Just like refilling the ink, replacing worn out nibs is part of good marker maintenance.
Here are a few cases when you would want to replace your current nibs:
- The marker doesn’t color well
- The nib has a little tail or is deformed
- The nib has become really soft
- You want to switch to a different size/shape nib
- You want to refill your marker quickly
Note that the nib is not always the reason why your markers aren’t working well anymore. Sometimes they just ran out of ink.
So see if refilling your markers can solve your problems before buying new nibs.
Replacing the nibs isn’t very difficult.
But you have to be very careful, since you can easily damage the nibs.
The most important thing to remember is to always pull the nibs from the base and not from the tip.
Moreover, there are special Copic tweezers that can make it a little easier to get a good grip on the nibs.